Monday, October 1, 2012

Teacher Collaboration: Response to Teacher Channel Video

The two teachers in this Teaching Channel Video are Ms. Warburton and Ms. Jones. Both are 8th grade algebra teachers and work together in order to make a consistent learning environment and experience for their students. The collaborate by planning their lessons, warm-ups, and teaching strategies together so that the students in each class learn the same lessons in the same way each day. They give the same tests on the same days and often give the same homework to create consistency. This way, there are little to no discrepancies the following year as to who learned which concepts or how they were taught. Both teachers have a passion for teaching and the care and enthusiasm they show in the classroom engages their students in learning and gives them the confidence and willingness they need to learn. Students in both classes work in groups but also learn to work alone to complete problems and how to compare work with others without giving answers. This helps students build confidence so that they can master a difficult concept.

                Ms. Warburton says that confusion leads to learning. By watching the video I observed that the more students are faced with difficult problems, the more they’ll get used to them and therefore, the more concepts they will learn and master because they become more willing to try to push past a challenge. She wants students to expect confusion—to not understand things right away—so that they’re always ready for a new challenge. Also, by teaching her students this she teaches them not to expect learning to come easily. One thing I really like that Ms. Warburton does is that she greets her students at the door at the beginning of each class with a smile and something positive. She also holds a sign that says “I ‘heart’ a silent start”. These two things together allow for a good start to the class period and for Ms. Warburton to “maximize her minutes” as she says. Her students know they are expected to start on their warm-up independently and silently and the class starts out smoothly without disruption and chaos. Meeting students at the beginning of class is something I would like to do as a teacher. I feel it helps teachers connect with students and in turn the students trust and respect the teacher, which motivates them to do better in class. This idea is backed up by TeacherVision which says “the ‘meet and greet’ that teachers do before class begins seems to be a critical benchmark for many students. They tell me how much it means when teachers hang out by the door saying ‘Hello’ and calling students by name. Furthermore, kids say that teachers who “meet and greet” are the ones who also care about them personally.” Engaging students in the lesson, while teaching, is a key. Although I found that Ms. Jones, in my opinion, does a better job at engaging her students into algebra, here Ms. Walburton spices up her lesson by teaching a fun and engaging song to remember the lesson by. Finally, her scoring system is unique in that the students grade their own warm-ups with a red pen but instead of marking if the answer is correct or incorrect, students mark two stars for “correct on the first time”, one star for “incorrect on the first try but now I understand”, or an X for “I didn’t get it right; I still don’t get it; I need help”. This is amazing to me because it gives students an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, ask for help, and realize they’re strengths and weaknesses.

                Ms. Jones, on the other hand, builds confidence in her students by requiring that they discuss math together. Her theory is that by talking with one another, students will help each other and will better understand what they’re learning by hearing it from a peer. Explaining a process in a group along with seeing it on the white board allows students to conceptualize understanding. For some students, it helps to work out problems as a group and say it out loud because it helps understanding of the concept and of what they’re doing wrong. Working as groups significantly decreases the pressure students feel when they’re called on individually because everyone has already worked together and discussed. Ms. Jones says that involving students in the challenge engages them and helps them learning. Talking math and doing math is connected this way so that when they’re right and they understand and can “talk” math, then they’re praised. They learn not only to understand but to love learning—and this is essential. The best part about watching Ms. Jones in her classroom is her high energy and enthusiasm. She teaches in a way that engages her students and demands their attention. She uses her personality and positive praise to encourage students, to convince them that it’s okay to fail a few times before you succeed so that you learn from your mistakes, and she strives for her students to feel that what they say and how they think really matters to her and to classroom learning. The way she teaches lets her students know that she has confidence in their abilities and that failing to understand is not an option (but this is expressed in a positive way to build confidence). As something I would love to share with my classroom one day, it’s comforting to know that at the University of San Francisco, one professor starts off asking the same question each year and always gets the same answer. He asks “who were your favorite teachers? And what did they have in common?” After several responses from his class, the graduate professor “went on to explain that he opens with that question because it's guaranteed to get things off to a good start, and it gets future teachers to think about what separates the great teachers from the not-so-great. He said, ‘We all remember our favorite teachers -- the ones who had passion and enthusiasm, the ones who loved and enjoyed what they were doing. We want each of you to become that kind of teacher. Always remember those special teachers. Make your career a tribute to them.’” It’s wonderful to know that enthusiasm and passion are characteristics that make up great teachers.

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